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Effect of 31 U.S.C. § 484 on the Settlement Authority of the Attorney General

Date of Issuance:

A proposal whereby sums received in settlement of a suit brought by the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia for environmental damage resulting from an oil spill would be donated to a waterfowl preservation organization, is barred by 31 U.S.C. § 484, which requires that all money received for the use of the United States be deposited in the Treasury. This requirement furthers the constitutional goal of reserving to Congress responsibility for determining whether and how public funds are to be spent.

While the Comptroller General has found § 484 inapplicable in situations where the funds involved are received in trust for a particular purpose, this theory is usually insufficient to override the mandate of § 484 where the trust is created by nonstatutory executive action.

In this case, where the United States has not incurred any monetary loss as a result of the oil spill, § 484 would not be offended by a settlement that attributed the entire sum received to its co-plaintiff, which could then direct the money to a charity.

Updated July 9, 2014